A bill to legalize home cultivation of cannabis in Washington State was given the all clear by a House committee.
While Washington has had retail sales of cannabis since 2014, following a voter-approved marijuana legalization measure in 2012, growing the plant at home for personal use is still a felony offense, punishable by up to five years in prison and $10,000 in fines.
The House Commerce and Gaming Committee approved the bill – HB 1019 – in a 7-2 vote which, if passed into law, would align Washington’s homegrow laws with the majority of states that legalized marijuana. Illinois is the only other state that legalized cannabis but continues to prohibit homegrows unless the grower is a registered medical marijuana patient. Growing five plants or less, however, is treated as a civil infraction punishable by a fine of up to $200.
HB 1019, sponsored by Rep. Shelley Kloba who also served as chair of the House committee for the vote, would allow adults 21 and older to grow up to six marijuana plants at home. Households with multiple adults would be restricted to a total of 15 plants. Selling cannabis without a license would remain illegal, but adults could gift small amounts of marijuana to one another without fear of punishment.
Following harvest and if the volume exceeds more than one ounce, growers would be obliged to store their marijuana in labeled containers stating their name, address and birthdate. The bill also stipulates marijuana plants must be grown out of public sight and cannot be “readily smelled” beyond the grower’s household. If found to be in violation of these requirements, growers would be fined a maximum of $50. The bill also allows for landlords to prohibit tenants from growing cannabis on their property.
Rep. Kloba indicated during the committee hearing it’s time for Washington to move on from its cautious approach toward allowing homegrows.
“Washington was one of the first states to legalize, with understandable trepidation… [Home cultivation] is one area where we’ve taken a more cautious approach and let other states test the waters,” she said.
The Washington Association of Police Chiefs and Sheriffs have come out against Kloba’s bill, arguing it would prove difficult to enforce. A representative from the association noted law enforcement would first require a warrant to enter a property suspected of breaching homegrow laws, which isn’t feasible for $50 civil infractions.
Rep. Eric Robertson (R) opposes the bill on the basis that enforcement of Washington’s marijuana regulations should fall on the state cannabis regulator – the Liquor and Cannabis Board (LCB) – rather than police officers. Kloba responded that given the bill doesn’t concern commercial marijuana activities, the issue is beyond the purview of the LCB.
The LCB opposed a previous attempt to allow homegrows in 2015, while two years later it recommended introducing a licensed track and trace system for home cultivation which was not adopted. Yet another effort to legalize home cultivation of marijuana in Washington was launched in 2019 but it didn’t even receive a hearing in the Senate.